Snapchat Dysmorphia: What Is It and How Does It Affect Your Kids?

Snapchat dysmorphia creates guilt, shame, and obsession in children regarding their physical image. Learn how to prevent it.
Snapchat Dysmorphia: What Is It and How Does It Affect Your Kids?

Last update: 01 December, 2021

If you’re a regular user of social networks, you’ll have noticed that there’s a growing tendency to add filters to photos and videos to improve their appearance. Children, youth, and adults have succumbed to this trend of softening, enhancing, or altering their faces in their publications thanks to the different existing tools. But, have you ever thought about the repercussions that this can have on minors? We’re talking about one of the most important: Snapchat dysmorphia.

Accepting who we are and how we are is a lifelong task, but one that’s especially relevant during adolescence. Body changes, social pressure, and the need for group approval lead many young people to develop different complexes and to feel uncomfortable in their own skin.

However, this phenomenon is exacerbated when the comparison occurs with fictional lives and images on social media. So, what can we do as parents? We’ll take a look at this issue in the following article.

What is Snapchat dysmorphia?

A teenage girl taking a selfie while wearing bright sunglasses.

The term Snapchat dysmorphia was coined by British surgeon Tijion Esho, after corroborating an increase in inquiries motivated by the search for the physical aspect of retouched selfies.

Therefore, this disorder has the same characteristics as body dysmorphic disorder (TDF), only influenced by social networks. TDF is characterized by excessive worry about one or more physical defects or imperfections that may be minor or nonexistent.

That is, the person has an exaggerated or erroneous perception about their own physical traits, which may go unnoticed or which are irrelevant to others.

This obsession generates enormous discomfort and leads the person to take on certain dysfunctional behaviors such as the following:

  • Spending a large number of hours worrying about their physical defects, which hinders the normal carrying out of daily activities (school, social, or family).
  • Performing repetitive actions, such as looking in the mirror over and over again, putting on excessive makeup, or seeking constant reassurance of perfection.
  • Continually comparing their physical appearance with that of other people.

This disorder can affect both men and women and usually develops in early adolescence.

In addition, it’s common for these concerns to involve self-perceived defects of the face. This is because selfies show these traits and social networks constantly expose them.

Why does Snapchat dysmorphia occur?

The permanent use of social networks or the filters that retouch photos isn’t the only cause of this disorder. Self-esteem and other personal characteristics, both genetic and learned, also play an important role. Still, the internet and technology have a significant influence and in various ways:

  • The constant use of filters favors the creation of unrealistic expectations. Young people can forget that those faces and bodies they see are retouched and fake. Especially because there are no references of real people with diverse physiques with whom they can feel identified.
  • Social networks promote constant comparison. Thus, young people continually struggle to fit into narrow and unattainable standards of beauty and feel guilt, shame, and failure when they see that they can’t reach them.
  • Getting used to observing their own image distorted by filters and retouches increases the rejection of their real appearance. Adolescents are constantly faced with the difference between what they are and what they “could be” or “should be”.

How to prevent your kids from suffering from Snapchat dysmorphia?

The role of parents is fundamental when it comes to protecting children from the negative consequences of social networks.

Therefore, if you want to prevent the appearance of Snapchat dysmorphia in minors, you can apply the following measures.

1. Regulate the use that your children make of social networks

The younger the age, the more harm can result from exposure to social media. Therefore, try to delay the start time and regulate the amount of time they spend in front of screens, the type of content they consume, and the interactions they carry out with others. Your supervision is essential.

2. Talk to them about the dangers of social media and the internet

It’s important that you talk to your children about how constant comparison with what they see on social media can affect their well-being. Explain the impact this has on their self-esteem and remind them that it can lead to problems with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or body image disorders.

3. Boost their self-esteem

Try to help your children build solid self-esteem from childhood, care for and love their bodies and health, and cultivate their inner world. Teach them to accept themselves as they are and not depend on external approval. This way, they’ll be less influenced by social pressure.

4. Expose them to diverse realities

Apps on a phone screen, including Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Finally, it’s important that minors have references that involve real and diverse people, who are happy and successful without the need to seek apparent perfection. To do this, you can help them find positive and constructive content on the internet, which isn’t based on the enhancement of physical appearance.

Self-esteem is taught by example

In short, children and adolescents are at a vulnerable and critical moment in their development and it’s essential that they have an adult guide to filter and process the stimuli they receive.

Therefore, stay aware of what your children consume on social networks, talk with them about it, and stay alert for possible signs that indicate the appearance of Snapchat dysmorphia. If necessary, seek professional help.

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